The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret

The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret

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by Seth Shulman
     
 

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A gripping intrigue at the heart of one of the world’s most important inventions.

While researching Alexander Graham Bell at MIT’s Dibner Institute, Seth Shulman scrutinized Bell’s journals and within them he found the smoking gun, a hint of deeply buried historical intrigue. Delving further, Shulman unearthed the surprising story behind the

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Overview

A gripping intrigue at the heart of one of the world’s most important inventions.

While researching Alexander Graham Bell at MIT’s Dibner Institute, Seth Shulman scrutinized Bell’s journals and within them he found the smoking gun, a hint of deeply buried historical intrigue. Delving further, Shulman unearthed the surprising story behind the invention of the telephone: a tale of romance, corruption, and unchecked ambition. Bell furtively—and illegally—copied part of Elisha Gray’s invention in the race to secure what would become the most valuable U.S. patent ever issued. And afterward, as Bell’s device led to the world’s largest monopoly, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, he hid his invention’s illicit beginnings. In The Telephone Gambit, Shulman challenges the reputation of an icon of invention, rocks the foundation of a corporate behemoth, and offers a probing meditation on how little we know about our own history.

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Editorial Reviews

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"Mr. Watson, come here!" These words, spoken by Bell to his assistant, are among the most celebrated in scientific lore because, as the story goes, they signaled the birth of the telephone, a device that would forever change the world. But the words are also a clue to a dark and convoluted tale, as Shulman discovered while researching Bell's invention at MIT. U.S. Patent #174465 is the most valuable ever issued; unfortunately, it was likely issued to the wrong man. Documents only recently made public provide irrefutable evidence that corruption and chicanery secured the honor for Bell rather than for electrician Elisha Gray, who filed competing patent paperwork the very same day. That Gray and Bell had rival claims is nothing new. What Shulman found, however, is the smoking gun -- or rather a gallery of many small smoking guns -- proving that Gray, not Bell, developed the components needed to transmit the voice, and that Bell stole the key information, passing it off as his own.

By all accounts, Bell was an honest man who preferred to work with the deaf rather than chase the fabulous wealth new inventions could bring. Why then, would he dishonor himself by not only pirating the work of another inventor but participating in a long, demoralizing campaign to keep the secret? The key to unlocking the mystery lies in his call to Watson on that fateful day. (Spring 2008 Selection)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393070507
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/17/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
535,715
File size:
285 KB

Meet the Author

Seth Shulman is an author, editor, and journalist specializing in issues in science, technology, and the environment. His most recent books include Unlocking the Sky and Owning the Future. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is hard to put down. It is very well researched and written! The author has done fantastic detective work and makes his case that Bell saw Elisha Gray's patent first and then altered his, using influence to get his patent entered first. The author started reluctantly down this path and had to prove it to himself as well as scientists and historians he knew at MIT's Dibner Institute before he wrote the book. In my opinion, simply ignore any negative review(s). This is a must-read. In fact, there are modern examples of similar tactics with patents but it is still shocking to see an iconic figure such as Bell perpetrating and benefitting from such deceit. You'll love this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A truly captivating factual write-up. I'm submitting it to my bookclub as my selection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
No mention of Antonio Meucci, who was using his working telephone when Bell was still 4 years old? Meucci and Bell's stories are where the real smoking gun lies. Focusing on E.G. is an old story and misses the boat. Embarrassing that Meucci is not mentioned here, at least not in the official synopsis. Hopefully it's in the book beyond just a passing reference.